‘Me and Earl and the Dying Girl’ Review: Nothing new here
Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is quite a busy film.
In between the overly aware narrations of the perpetually awkward and self-deprecating "me" in the title are patronizing love letters to film canon and a suspect tale about a young girl dying from cancer. All of these are dutifully wrapped in a cliche-laden coming-of-age where slight romances and tests of camaraderie are expected to evoke immense emotions out of its viewers.
The film is unabashedly manipulative. It is the type that wins hearts not because it is particularly inventive but because everything in it is comfortably familiar, even if it is draped in eccentric mannerisms.
Despite its obvious machinations, Gomez-Rejon’s film still manages to hint of enough sincerity to be genuinely affecting. Burdened by its multiple embellishments, the film still succeeds in drawing humanity out of characters formed from a common mold and forced into scenarios that have been done countless times before.
Perks of being a wallflower
Greg (Thomas Mann) has survived high school by being “a citizen of every nation.” He hops around campus, remaining barely noticeable to all the major players by being that kid whose demeanor is not threatening enough to stir attention.
His partner in invisibility is Earl (RJ Cyler), a black kid who also serves as his co-director in the various short films, parodies of the various foreign films and classics they grew up with, they make for kicks. So far, their collaboration has worked. Their bizarre hobbies are kept under wraps during the crucial period, and they’re about to graduate.
When Greg’s parents (Connie Britton and Nick Offerman) order Greg to reconnect with Rachel (Olivia Cooke), a neighbor and classmate who has been diagnosed with leukemia, their strategies become seriously compromised. They become friends, with Greg and Earl starting to open up by sharing their films with her. Greg is then forced by his high school crush (Katherine Hughes) to make a film for her as a grand notion of their friendship, which sort of complicates what has essentially been a fragile relationship of sorts.
If Me and Earl and the Dying Girl feels more than a little bit muddled, it is because it cannot afford to sustain a specific mood or feel for its narrative. The film is as flighty as the character whose perspective is utilized to showcase the particular world view.
In a way, the film’s universe is one structured out of cinema. All of the parental units, from Greg’s cuttlefish-devouring father to Rachel’s martini-sipping mother, seem to be plucked out of the myriad of American independent films that delight in weird suburban families. The depicted relationships are laced with wonderment, with just the right amount of charming strangeness to make them rise above the ordinary without being too far out.
The threads of stories out of the film all have unsurprising outcomes, heartwarming but conventional. The way Greg’s narration attempts to steer out of predictability is even more overtly self-aware, something that is to be expected out of a film that takes cinephilia as its driving heart and soul.
All in all, there is nothing new about Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.
Its being a tapestry of everything that has been done and everything that has worked in the several decades that cinema has existed feels like a minor gimmick, one that is enlarged into a galaxy for the formulaic tale of two awkward boys and an unfortunate girl to feel more novel than it really is. – Rappler.com
Francis Joseph Cruz litigates for a living and writes about cinema for fun. The first Filipino movie he saw in the theaters was Carlo J. Caparas’ 'Tirad Pass.' Since then, he’s been on a mission to find better memories with Philippine cinema. Profile photo by Fatcat Studios